SXSW: Short Reviews of "The King," "The OH in Ohio," "LOL," and "Maxed Out"

Check out some short reviews from Tim Ryan, currently at South by Southwest.

A compelling, Hitchcockian tale of soupy morality and the wages of sin, "The King" is unsettling entertainment in the best sense. Recently discharged from the Navy, Elvis (Gael García Bernal in another stunning performance) finds David, the father he never knew (William Hurt), now a minister with a family that knows nothing of his past. One of the best things about the "The King" is that the viewer has absolutely no idea what will happen next; the characters' motivations are drawn from primal places. There isn't a scene in "The King" that doesn't work, and it all adds up to something rare: a film that doesn't cheat, and that may turn off some but will leave others, ahem, all shook up.

A comedy about female sexual dysfunction, "The OH in Ohio" starts out well enough. Parker Posey is fine as a neurotic ad executive, and Paul Rudd is especially funny as a very bitter high school biology teacher. Together, they are a married couple that lost their mojo a long time ago, exchanging razor-sharp barbs in early scenes. Unfortunately, the film jumps the rails at the half-hour mark, with dispiritingly obvious gags, scenes that go nowhere, some lame Fellini references, and an overall loss of any coherent tone. There are some good ideas here, but, like the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs, "The OH in Ohio," is a missed opportunity. "The OH in Ohio" is a South by Southwest world premiere.

In the 1950s, low-budget filmmakers who wanted to evoke a new technological age would convert their kitchens into spaceship cockpits, or deep-sea diving helmets into aliens. In an age when technology is more affordable and less mysterious to the general populous, it's possible to make films more technologically savvy than big budget sci-fi flicks, something "LOL," making its world premiere at South by Southwest, proves. The film, directed, written, edited and starred in by Joe Swanberg, is a very low-budget comedy about a group of guys who can't put down their cellies, and the women who strive to get them to simply talk, rather than just IM. "LOL" has an emo feel similar to Andrew Bujalski's "Funny Ha Ha" (and sure enough, Bujalski makes a cameo in "LOL"). It has some sly laughs (and a few wrenching moments, including one distressed voicemail message) and a sharp ear for how people (awkwardly) communicate.

The documentary "Maxed Out" is far more entertaining than any movie about credit card debt has any right to be. The film, yet another SXSW world premiere, looks at the ways in which credit card companies make money off those who are deepest in debt, and uses incisive interviews (including Robin Leach!), some darkly ironic clips, and straight-to-the-point statistics to make its claims. This is an informative film about an important issue.

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